So before I go into sharing with you all some of the cool things I’ve been learning at school, (by the way, if you eat almonds or buy almond milk, please make sure that you read my info about almonds below in the post) I want to share with you what I’ve learned about myself in these past few weeks, so here we go… First off natural chef school is amazing, and there are some days where I absolutely LOVE IT and I’m giddy with joy, excited and bouncing off the walls with passion, where I want to shout out to the world on a roof top, “I LOVE SCHOOL! ” On the other hand, there are other days where I’m completely mentally and physically exhausted, overwhelmed and asking myself, “what the heck am I doing, did I really sign up for this?” Yep, that pretty much sums it up.
Going back to school was not an easy decision for me, and it’s not an easy adjustment to get used to. I’m having to “let go” of a lot! I used to do everything and anything for anyone, and I loved it, as that is a HUGE part of my personality, but since going back to school, I’ve had to cut back and be a bit more selfish and take care of “me” first, and that has not been easy, it’s actually been bit of a struggle for me to get used to.
I was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years, so my world revolved around taking care of my kids, my house, my friends and being open and readily available for them at the drop of a hat, and now I just can’t do that. I’m seriously struggling with not being able to do all that I did before, and at times I feel this overwhelming sense of guilt. I find myself getting frustrated and angry for not being able to do it all! I think there are a lot of us parents that feel that way more often than not, so that’s part of the reason why I’m opening up and admitting this all to you today, so you don’t feel like you’re alone in feeling this way. I think we all place too much value on being perfect and pride ourselves on getting it all done while making it look easy at the same time. Who are we doing this for exactly and who are we trying to impress? What I just recently realized is that it’s ourselves that we’re doing it for in the end, not others. It’s actually our own egos working against us. We’re the only ones putting the guilt and shame on ourselves to get it all done, yes us! It’s not my kids, boyfriend or friends making me feel bad or guilty for not getting it all done, or for not being a super mom, super girlfriend or super friend. They’re actually my biggest cheerleaders and supporters. They’re the ones telling me each day how proud and excited they are for me, and they’re stepping up and helping me out! I can’t tell you how amazing that feels, and how blessed I feel to have them in my life, so thanks guys!
So basically the one thing I keep hearing over and over in my head is, it’s all about balance. Balance when it comes to food, balance between work and play, and balance when it comes to life. Extremes are not healthy and don’t get us to where we need to go in the end. Extremes may work at first, but in the end they only deplete us, and then we have to start all over again and start a new course. When I hear the word “balance” I envision being on an inner tube floating along a river, slowly going downstream, letting the natural flow of the water take me to where I need to go, and trusting that I’m going in the right direction and at the right speed. Yes, there will be rocks, sticks and and bumps along the way, but when I come up to them I’ll try to figure out a way around them and ask for help if needed, and then I’ll continue on, floating along my course. Isn’t that a peaceful vision? I seriously felt a sense of peace just writing that.
So I’m going to listen to myself, my higher self, not my ego, and try to be more balanced as I continue on this journey. I’m going to ask for help, take breaks when needed, play a bit more when prompted, be kinder to myself and know that it’s ok to fail sometimes, and it’s ok not to get it all done. There’s always tomorrow and some of those tasks that we thought were so important the day before, don’t feel so important the next day, and we can thus let them go…
So let’s move natural chef school. I have to admit that I thought I was a pretty good cook before attending this program, but there are days where I feel like a complete failure in the kitchen, especially when we have to improvise and create a recipe from scratch. Improvising and creating a recipe on the spot, is not where my talent lies. I can’t just look at a bunch of ingredients and create something from scratch on the fly. I need to at least have some sort of recipe or guideline to follow, maybe even some measurements or ratios to look at? I mean I’ve never been able to watch those chef competition shows because they’ve always stressed me out, so imagine what it’s like to be tested and put on the spot doing something that feels so uncomfortable! It’s not a fun feeling and those are the days where I just want to crawl under a rock and hide, but that’s why I signed up for this program, to challenge myself and to learn how to improv and create more. It may take me a while, and I may never fully get it, but that’s ok, I’m going to keep on trying and when those uncomfortable days are over, I do feel a little proud of myself for not giving up and for making it through the day, and then I go home and open a bottle of wine! 😉
So right now, we’re learning all sorts of basic cooking techniques and farm to table recipes. We basically show up at 10:00, have a quick demo and lecture with our teacher, and then we’re set loose in the kitchen, in our little chef coats, aprons and hats to cook up a storm. It’s funny because we’re all scrambling around sharing ovens, stove tops, ingredients, techniques and learning to work together as a team. I’m really learning so much from my fellow classmates and creating some amazing bonds at the same time. The hours fly by, and by 1:30 we all finally get to sit down family style at a big table, and share in a meal together, one that we’ve all made, and one that we feel pretty proud of no matter how it turned out. It’s pretty awesome!
Last week we had sea vegetable day where we learned how to cook with sea vegetables. I will admit that I went into sea vegetable day not excited at all, and actually brought a lunch because I wasn’t sure I was going to want to eat anything, but to be honest, it’s been one of my favorite days thus far. We made some amazing dishes and they didn’t taste at all like seaweed. Yes, I have to say that I was shocked! We made this apple and cinnamon kanten which we topped with this amazing vanilla cashew cream (shown below). WOW, I was in heaven, and totally want to make the recipe and share it with all of you. I can’t wait to make it for my kids and tell them after the fact that they just ate agar agar (yes, I can be a sneaky mama)! We also made this amazing sea vegetable caviar which we topped on rice crackers (shown below on the crackers) that was super delish, and is really a unique and healthy appetizer to show off to friends! What I gained from sea vegetable day is that seaweed can actually taste good when you get creative, and incorporating it a bit more into your diet is really beneficial. Some of benefits of seaweed are;
- It’s a great natural source of natural organic iodine which maintains a healthy thyroid function.
- Seaweed is cleansing and great source of fiber.
- It’s one of the richest plant sources of calcium.
- It has tons of vitamin C (more vitamin c than oranges).
- It’s high in protein, high in minerals, especially iodine, calcium, iron and magnesium.
- It’s also an excellent way to lose weight because it makes you feel fuller longer. I will admit that after that seaweed lunch I was not hungry the rest of the night!
On another note, don’t go crazy and eat a boatload of seaweed, it’s all about moderation and balance when it comes to food, and too much seaweed is not a good thing, so add a bit of it to your diet, but don’t go crazy with it!
We also had a day devoted to herbs and that was my favorite day ever. I don’t know what it is with herbs, but I was bouncing off the walls and felt energized and just happy! I will go more into herbs at another date, but just note that herbs are a GREAT thing for you and the one thing you can’t get too much of! So, make more recipes that incorporate fresh herbs and eat them up! One herb that I’ve been incorporating more in my diet is parsley! I keep a bunch on my counter in a glass, sort of like flowers, and rinse off a bunch at a time and snack on the leaves. Parsley is great for digestion and wonderful to have after a meal, as it not only cleanses your palate, but helps your body digest your food better. It’s a win/win herb!
OK, SO HERE’S SOME IMPORTANT NEWS ABOUT ALMONDS! We also learned something not so great about almonds that made me a bit sad. Did you know that raw almonds sold in the grocery store are not actually raw? They’ve been pasteurized! I’m sure there are many of you that knew this, but it was surprise/shock to me, so I thought I would share it with all of you.
In 2007, the USDA ordered all almond growers to “sterilize” commercially sold almonds in one of three ways: flash pasteurize them using steam, (steam them at 160 degrees, which is the safest way of the three) use radiation, (yikes) or treat them with propylene oxide (PPO). PPO is a known carcinogen, and most countries, have banned imported nuts treated with PPO. Scary right?
But no worries, you now have the information and you therefore have options, which is a good thing. Also, there are a few ways to still get truly “raw” unpasteurized almonds.
- You can purchase them from your local farmers market, as they don’t have to pasteurize almonds because they’re not selling them in large volume. This is a win/win to me because you’re supporting our local farmers!
- You can purchase them from Canada, as Canada does not require almonds to be pasteurized.
- There are a number of on-line resources where you can purchase raw almonds and I’ve included some links for you all: Bremner Farms Roadside Stand, Blue Mountain Organics and of course there is always Amazon. I’ve also heard that some Whole Foods are carrying truly raw Italian almonds near the bulk section, so check with your individual store.
If you purchase ORGANIC raw almonds (or organic almonds in general) from the grocery store, then know that they have only been pasteurized using the steaming method, which heats them up a bit, but they are still raw, (but not truly raw for those raw enthusiasts out there that only eat food that has never been heated at all) but for the majority of us they are raw. Steaming them is the safest and purest way to pasteurize almonds, as it only gets to the outside of the nut, not the inside, so it doesn’t affect the quality or the nutritional value of the nut. SO NOTE! All raw almonds that are labeled organic, only use the steaming method for pasteurization, so you can feel safe buying almonds that are organic. Got it?
When I make up a batch of my almond milk, I’m using raw organic almonds from Whole Foods when I can’t get to the farmers market, so I just wanted to pass that little tidbit along.
I didn’t want to freak you all out by sharing this, but I wanted to share it with you all because I think it’s important for us to know what we’re eating and what’s happening to our food before it hits the shelves and to pass on the information to others. Oh, one other quick thing for those of you that love Bob’s Red Mill almond meal/flour, which is not organic. They actually use the steaming method for pasteurizing all their almonds, organic or not organic, so it’s all good. My teacher called them, as she uses their flour all of the time, so you can feel good about using their flour! Yay for Bob’s Red Mill!
I wanted to share with you all a link to a great website called, Environmental Working Group (EWG). This site has tons of great information on it, such as the most current up to date list of the dirty dozen and the clean 15. You can even get their app on your iPhone so you can have it handy when heading out to the grocery store!
Did you know that apples are the number one on the dirty dozen? Apples have the highest pesticide residue, as they’re sprayed 9 times within their lifecycle. In the summer, peaches, apricots and nectarines are number one on the list. So, if you can, buy organic produce when it comes to those listed on the dirty dozen, and buy seasonally as well, because when you buy in season, the costs are greatly reduced.
I realize this post is getting long and I might actually be loosing some of you, so I’m going to end with one last important thing and something for you all to try..
Food is all about balance, and there isn’t any one “super food.” Eating in balance and moderation is the best thing we can do for our bodies. Extreme diets and approaches are a quick fix, but don’t sustain us in the long run.
Everyone has a different constitution and what’s good and healthy for one person isn’t necessarily good and healthy for another. Our bodies and systems are all different, so start listening to your body and start keeping a food diary. Take note and jot down what you eat, jot down how you feel after each meal and see if there is a pattern. Do some foods give you energy and make you feel great, do you feel cranky and tired after eating certain foods, is your stomach upset? Clue in and get quiet and see how you feel. Also, listen to your cravings and try and eat what your body is craving and see how you feel after, because sometimes our bodies are our best indicator of what we need.
Oh one last thing! This little guy just turned 11! Happy Birthday to Eli! We celebrated by making his favorite dinner, favorite turkey burgers with cilantro lime mayonnaise, 5-minute Brussels sprouts and chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting! See, it’s all about balance, balance with life and balance with food. Eat healthy, but enjoy the naughty on occasion, because it’s all ok!
Have a super duper weekend everyone and one last thing, let’s try and all be a bit kinder to one another, support each other a bit more and stop judging one another! We all share the same struggles and the same fears, so let’s just help each other out more and be real going forward, and with that, I’m off to bed!